The Suicide Squad

 

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James Gunn’s resurrection of the disgraced franchise turns out to be the funniest, bloodiest and most entertaining superhero movie for aeons.

 

Suicide Squad, The

Jennifer Holland, Idris Elba, Steve Agee (behind Idris) and Viola Davis

  

Of course it’s confusing. This is the follow-up to Suicide Squad, which starred Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, but this is called The Suicide Squad. And it lives up to its definite article. Margot Robbie is back as the mischievous Harley Quinn, in collaboration with a troupe of new crime-fighting ne’er-do-wells. However, the star of the all-star film is its writer-director James Gunn. It was Gunn who wrote and directed the critically admired and commercially triumphant Guardians of the Galaxy and its rewarding, commercially triumphant sequel, and he brings the same playful, high-stakes vibe to the embers of a title that almost burned out with the ridiculed (but financially successful) Suicide Squad of 2016.

 

Will Smith is gone and is replaced by Idris Elba as Robert DuBois (aka Bloodsport), a fearless mercenary and supervillain reduced to scraping bubblegum off the floors of the Belle Reve penitentiary. Here, he is joined by Harley Quinn, the jingoistic Peacemaker (John Cena), field leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), the mother-hating Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), the rat-loving, narcoleptic Cleo Cazo (Daniela Melchior) and a walking, talking friendless shark in the Groot mould (voiced by Sylvester Stallone).

 

So, in the tradition of such cinematic forebears as The Dirty Dozen and Inglourious Basterds, the martial misfits are united on a suicide assignment to topple the anti-US government of a small independent nation (Corto Maltese) off the coast of South America. It’s a mission impossible and it’s up to Idris and co. to forge a team spirit before they all have their heads blown off.

 

Had James Gunn not presented all this with such a gleeful giggle, the film would have merited an 18 certificate. The pre-credit bloodbath alone takes some beating, but this is strictly gore-for-a-laugh in which a number of characters are imaginatively dissected, gutted and pulped. In contrast to the bloated pomposity of the other chapters of the so-called DC Extended Universe and the weak wit of the Marvel movies, this director’s film jumps off the screen with all guns blazing. There isn’t a wasted shot, an ineffectual line of dialogue or character tic that isn’t fine-tuned for the ultimate pay-off. And even at 132 minutes, the film’s pace is kept in fifth gear, with the occasional respite engineered for a quick intake of breath before the next comic showcase. Gunn’s use of songs is also spot-on, notably a romantic shoot-out set to The Fratellis' ‘Whistle For the Choir’ in which Harley artfully dispenses with a small army of hapless adversaries. Hell, even Margot Robbie’s tattoos are hilarious. But, instead of stealing the film as in the first outing, Robbie is just another delightful cog in the wheel, merrily upending expectations or bashing out somewhat inappropriate observations (“I love the rain. It's like the angels are splooshing all over us”).

 

Meanwhile, Idris is all the funnier for playing Bloodsport absolutely straight, evident from the early expletive-ridden tirade he has with his teenage daughter Tyla (Storm Reid). She’s sixteen, he thinks she’s still fourteen. The Suicide Squad is not only the funniest superhero movie, like ever, but also an exhilarating, innovative, heart-pounding, surprising and even moving slab of escapism, complete with chapter headings carved into the cinematic landscape (‘Operation Harley’ is written in plumes of fire). Gunn knows his audience and one gets the feeling that it’s a personal endeavour he is sharing with his like-minded fans. And those aficionados will be debating which their favourite scene is for decades. The inevitable sequel cannot come soon enough.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, John Cena, Joel Kinnaman, Sylvester Stallone, Viola Davis, David Dastmalchian, Daniela Melchior, Michael Rooker, Jai Courtney, Peter Capaldi, Alice Braga, Pete Davidson, Joaquín Cosio, Juan Diego Botto, Storm Reid, Nathan Fillion, Steve Agee, Sean Gunn, Jennifer Holland, Tinashe Kajese, Flula Borg, Mayling Ng, Lynna Ashe.

 

Dir James Gunn, Pro Peter Safran and Charles Roven, Ex Pro Zack Snyder, Deborah Snyder, Walter Hamada, Chantal Nong Vo, Nikolas Korda and Richard Suckle, Screenplay James Gunn, Ph Henry Braham, Pro Des Beth Mickle, Ed Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner, Music John Murphy, Costumes Judianna Makovsky, Sound David Acord.

 

DC Films/Atlas Entertainment/The Safran Company-Warner Bros.

132 mins. USA. 2021. Rel: 30 July 2021. Cert. 15.